Sandy Hook Remembered

Permanent Memorial to Take Shape under the Watchful Eyes of Two SWA Designers

by American Trails Staff

San Francisco (September 20, 2018) – On September 17, the Board of Selectmen in Newtown, Connecticut, officially approved a design proposal by SWA for the Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial, to remember and celebrate the 26 lives that were lost at Sandy Hook Elementary on December 14, 2012.

How can a place best honor these lives, acknowledging a tragedy of profound dimensions for both the families who grieve the loss of their loved ones and also for the many nearby and beyond, whose lives were touched in ways that are hard to describe or quantify?

photo credit: SWA

These were the questions facing landscape designers Daniel Affleck and Ben Waldo of SWA Group’s San Francisco studio when they responded to a call for design proposals from the Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission. They ultimately proposed the vision that won the trust of the Commission, which includes families who lost their children and loved ones. SWA’s “The Clearing” was selected unanimously from among 189 international submissions, and, with the recent approval of the Board of Selectmen, will be implemented on a donated five-acre site in Sandy Hook, Connecticut.

The memorial clearing at the heart of the woodland setting features a circular reflecting pool with the names of the victims inscribed in granite around the outer edge. A tree, the “Sacred Sycamore,” grows from a young age in a planter at the center of the pool. The motion of the water flows inward and embraces the tree, capturing the energy of the landscape around it. Visitors are encouraged to give a candle or flower to the water, which will carry the offering across the space in an act of bridging the divide between living and deceased.

Joining Affleck and Waldo in this effort is New York City-based SWA/Balsley Principal Justin Winters, who is also a Connecticut native. Other team members supporting the realization of this vision include Sherwood Engineers, for civil engineering, Stantec, for structural engineering, Atelier Ten, for lighting, and Fluidity, a water feature design company.

“We wanted to acknowledge that the healing process does not end, but continues and grows,” said Daniel Affleck, who grew up nearby in West Hartford, Connecticut. “We felt a path would both represent and nurture this process, so that is central to the design.”

“Our path winds in gentle circles through a flowering woodland which commemorates the lives of the victims, and eventually arrives at a central memorial ‘clearing,’ where the community can gather in love for those lost,” continued co-designer Ben Waldo. “The path has no true beginning or end, which allows visitors to experience the space at their own pace and in their own way, while always bringing them closer together.”

About SWA

SWA is an internationally acclaimed landscape architecture, planning and urban design firm renowned for creating dynamic, resilient and memorable places world-wide. The firm is committed to designing for a more livable world and practices from eight studios. For more information, please contact Communications Manager Julie Eakin: [email protected]; 212-734-6646. Renderings and interviews with the designers are available upon request.

About Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission

The Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission was appointed in 2013 by the Board of Selectmen for the Town of Newtown, Connecticut. Its charge was to address questions about whether there should be a permanent memorial to honor those whose lives were lost at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012, and, if so, what and where it should be and how it should be funded.

Published December 2018